When we took over Roving Logistics in 2012, we were focused 100% on improving our operational efficiency. Over the next 2.5 years, we built out the Roving Management System (which became CartonCloud), and turned the business into an efficient machine running as lean as possible.
Unfortunately however; we made the rookie mistake of assuming that simply by delivering operational excellence, our business would attract more clients in vast numbers... something which never happened.
When we sold the business in May 2015 (approx. 3 years from when we had purchased it), we'd transformed the company from making a loss to making a profit, yet our total turnover was below that of when we had purchased it, and as a result, our profits were nowhere near what they should have been.
It wasn't until afterward, when we began to work with other businesses and assisted them to get CartonCloud up and running that we realised where we had gone wrong. The reason is so abundantly obvious that it's somewhat embarrassing to even mention...
We simply hadn't had any sales focus.
When I speak to business owners today, I can quickly assess their business simply by asking what they (the owner) do on a daily basis. Those who routinely drive trucks, operate forklifts, or spend their time invoicing and chasing late payers are generally reliant on 2-3 key clients for their business to continue to operate.
They're reliant on these accounts because they're not out getting new work and selling their services to prospective new clients. They're 100% engaged in working "in" the business, not "on" the business. It's a cliche saying, but it's 100% true, and having worked with 100+ companies, it's blatantly obvious who is doing what.
We made this mistake ourselves. While our time wasn't (usually) spent driving vehicles, we spent an enormous amount of time focused on developing CartonCloud and automating the various pieces of our business. It took us 2.5 years to get the whole company to a point where we felt our operation was streamlined enough to start looking for more clients.
Today, we're able to get companies to the same level of automation in a matter of weeks, meaning those day-to-day tasks are taken care of and the owners should be in a position to work "on the business". In 3PL Transport and Warehousing, it's all about volume. The more you can store, the more you can pick, and the more you can move (at the right price of course), the more money you'll bring in and the higher the profit.
We routinely encourage business owners to get their operations in order by implementing processes (both through software, and through general organisational changes), then to get out there and sell.
If you don't get out and sell you're reliant on your existing customers sticking around, and as there's always someone else out there selling, you're sitting in a really risky position.
Of course, if your business is a well-oiled machine, you're out closing deals on a weekly basis, and you're able to hear what you're competitors are doing, you'll not only have a higher chance of retaining business, but you'll be adding so much more of it that your business will really grow.